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Training Ethiopian Canberra pilots at RAF Manby and Bassingbourn

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Training Ethiopian Canberra pilots at RAF Manby and Bassingbourn

Old 18th Jun 2019, 00:01
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Training Ethiopian Canberra pilots at RAF Manby and Bassingbourn

Hello all. This is a long shot, but was anyone here (or knows someone) that was with 231 OCU at Bassingbourn back in the late 1960s? I'm specifically looking for anyone that remembered training four Ethiopian pilots on the Canberra. In particular, do they remember the tall pilot, Amha Desta, that was rejected from the course after it was discovered he was too tall for a safe ejection?

Or anyone that was at RAF Manby and remembers training them on Jet Provosts. Both cases would have been late 1967 and into 1968. I'd be grateful for anyone that has memories to share on this topic!

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Old 18th Jun 2019, 02:27
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I remember one evening (it was dark) in, I think, 1968/9 an Ethiopian pilot in a Canberra going off the runway (21) at Waddington during a practice diversion. Apparently he was deceived by the runway gradient into thinking that he had reached the end of the available concrete. I recall all this very clearly as I was SDO and so had to attend the incident; Viv W was DCF. A later report in Air Clues was entitled "Bundoo Bound".

Last edited by Barksdale Boy; 18th Jun 2019 at 02:30. Reason: date amendment
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Old 18th Jun 2019, 05:35
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Originally Posted by Barksdale Boy View Post
I remember one evening (it was dark) in, I think, 1968/9 an Ethiopian pilot in a Canberra going off the runway (21) at Waddington during a practice diversion. Apparently he was deceived by the runway gradient into thinking that he had reached the end of the available concrete. I recall all this very clearly as I was SDO and so had to attend the incident; Viv W was DCF. A later report in Air Clues was entitled "Bundoo Bound".
Very interesting! I didn't think I'd get any replies, so thanks a lot for sharing that. Bear with me, but what was an SDO and a DCF? Do you remember by chance how bad the damage to the a/c was? I know this question crops on here several times, but is there an archive for Air Clues that dates back that far?

I've been hunting around for Canberra incidents at Waddington in 1968 (pretty sure it was that year, as all four Ethiopian Canberras were delivered that year) and found this, referring to a blown tyre causing WH944 of 231 OCU to come off the runway.: http://www.bcar.org.uk/1960s-incident-logs - Could it have been this incident?

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Old 18th Jun 2019, 12:25
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Originally Posted by nazca_steve View Post
Very interesting! I didn't think I'd get any replies, so thanks a lot for sharing that. Bear with me, but what was an SDO and a DCF?
I can help you with those:

SDO Station Duty Officer. First point of contact for out of hours occurrences. However, if there were operations staff on duty, some of the responsibilities would be retained by them. The SDO would be a Flight Lieutenant of any branch and therefore would not normally deal with flying matters. He would be responsible for ensuring that the appropriate specialist personnel were notified in event of an incident and would hold the fort until they arrived. He would be assisted by the Orderly Officer; Flying Officer or Pilot Officer; who carried out the routine station functions such as being present when the ensign was raised and lowered, inspecting (OO) defaulters and supervising the guardroom staff. Both duties usually covered a 24 hour period.

DCF Duty Commander Flying. Responsible for the supervision of all flying related activities on the unit. An aircrew branch Squadron Leader or above, normally a Squadron flight commander. Would take charge in event of any incident. He would be assisted by the Duty Pilot (DP) when unit flying was in progress. If the DCF was not a pilot, then the DP would be an aircraft captain. In event of an incident the DP would inform the DCF, have the manuals and order books open at the relevant sections and then stand back to avoid being trampled by the ensuing stampede of executives.

The above roughly describes the situation during the period referred to by Barksdale Boy. In later years, roles were merged, names of positions changed, functions and responsibilities moved around. The OO/SDO tasks were undertaken by one officer, on some units DP was called DCF and a Duty Station Executive Officer if any branch appointed. This could vary from unit to unit dependant in role, commitments and availability of personnel. It could become quite confusing.

I hope that this helps and doesn’t serve to further confuse!

YS
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Old 18th Jun 2019, 14:22
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That may well have been the incident.
YS
Your "ensuing stampede" resonates. Viv, in his as ever relaxed but practical way, told me "Get back to the bar BB, we're heavily over-organised here".
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Old 18th Jun 2019, 16:03
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Cheers to Yellow Sun for that very helpful explanation!

BB - Is there anything more you can remember about the incident that might be of interest? For instance, was anyone injured, and/or did they have to be cut out of the a/c or were able to exit normally? I don't suppose you can remember their names? If it helps jog your memory, it would have been one of the following: Assefa Mekbib, Bizuwork Yigezu, Afeworki Mekonnen or Mesfin Haile. I've interviewed the latter two, and neither mentioned it, so I am guessing it was one of the former. I know we are talking 51 years ago, but hey, it's worth a shot!

One other thing - what was Viv's full name - and is he 'available for comment' so to speak?
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Old 19th Jun 2019, 02:09
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Originally Posted by nazca_steve View Post
Cheers to Yellow Sun for that very helpful explanation!

BB - Is there anything more you can remember about the incident that might be of interest? For instance, was anyone injured, and/or did they have to be cut out of the a/c or were able to exit normally? I don't suppose you can remember their names? If it helps jog your memory, it would have been one of the following: Assefa Mekbib, Bizuwork Yigezu, Afeworki Mekonnen or Mesfin Haile. I've interviewed the latter two, and neither mentioned it, so I am guessing it was one of the former. I know we are talking 51 years ago, but hey, it's worth a shot!

One other thing - what was Viv's full name - and is he 'available for comment' so to speak?
NS, you can try and get hold of a copy of the RAF Form 1180, Accident Record Card, for this incident. The RAF Museum at Hendon hold copies. I have always found them very helpful in cases such as this.

Have a look at this link:

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/researc...t-records.aspx

There is a brief description of events in Colin Cummings' book, 'Category Five'. That entry reads:

13 May 1968 WH944 Canberra B2 231 OCU RAF Waddington

The aircraft was being flown from its base at Bassingbourn on a diversion exercise and was making an assymmetric full stop landing at Waddington. The aircraft crossed the threshold at 17 knots above the normal speed and the starboard tyre burst after touchdown, The pilot was unable to hold the swing and the aircraft veered off the right side of the runway, sliding sideways before stopping.


No names are given in that account but would be included on the RAF Form 1180.

Hope that helps a little.
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Old 19th Jun 2019, 05:31
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I don't think I can usefully add anything else.
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Old 19th Jun 2019, 07:19
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Incidentally, the Canberra in question (WH944) had been damaged and subsequently repaired almost exactly 10 years previously (August 1958) in a wheels-up landing at Wyton after the gear failed to lower.
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Old 22nd Jun 2019, 21:41
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Very interesting, Dave, I wonder then if the second incident was enough to tip her over the edge regarding ending up Cat 5. I found a photo online showing her 'at rest' a month after it happened and from the outside you wouldn't know she'd be in an accident.
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Old 31st Jul 2019, 02:40
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Hello all,

I was recently sent this photo showing the late Col Bizuwork Yigezu (then a Capt or Major) of the Ethiopian Air Force training with 231 OCU, presumably in 1968. My guess is this was taken at Bassingbourn, and I'd love to know who the other officers were and if anyone has contact details for them (if they are still with us).


Presumed taken at RAF Bassingbourn, around May 1968 **UPDATE: Now confirmed as Cottesmore, 1972.

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Old 31st Jul 2019, 07:57
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231 OCU Cottesmore August 1972 Lt to Rt: Flt Lt Dickie Lees, Flt Lt Cowap, Lt Col Bizuwork, Sqn Ldr Merriman One is around but quite unwell
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Old 31st Jul 2019, 16:32
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Originally Posted by Vampiredave View Post
231 OCU Cottesmore August 1972 Lt to Rt: Flt Lt Dickie Lees, Flt Lt Cowap, Lt Col Bizuwork, Sqn Ldr Merriman One is around but quite unwell
Thanks for that info, Dave. Did you know them personally or were there at the time? I'm curious about the 1972 date, as their training concluded in 1968, unless it was a continuation training of some kind?
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Old 1st Aug 2019, 12:02
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Hopefully Dave will return with some more info Steve.
I can confirm though that it is Don Merriman on the right in the Blue Suit.
When that photo was taken - I had been on the OCU for approx 2 months (I arrived mid to late june 1972 as a new J/T 'Rigger' from Halton via a flying course at AST Perth)
Don Merriman was promoted to Sqn Ldr in July 1971 and the seemingly normal format for these OCU pics was to have the Station Cdr or Sqn Cdr standing on the right (as we look at it).
I do remember Dickie Lees and the Nav,although I do not remember any Ethiopian Students,my memory of Studes is quite patchy - so not a surprise LOL

rgds B
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Old 1st Aug 2019, 13:38
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You may recall that the OCU moved to Cottesmore in May 1969 and, like 'Longer Ron', my memory is also quite vague and I do not recall any Ethiopian students during this period. Therefore your comment regarding continuation training may be correct. The names I provided came my copy of this photograph, which was included in a batch of Canberra photographs given to me some time ago. I knew one of the pilots in the photograph but, as I said previously, he is very unwell and no longer responds to emails, etc.
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Old 1st Aug 2019, 18:02
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Originally Posted by Vampiredave View Post
You may recall that the OCU moved to Cottesmore in May 1969 and, like 'Longer Ron', my memory is also quite vague and I do not recall any Ethiopian students during this period. Therefore your comment regarding continuation training may be correct. The names I provided came my copy of this photograph, which was included in a batch of Canberra photographs given to me some time ago. I knew one of the pilots in the photograph but, as I said previously, he is very unwell and no longer responds to emails, etc.
Sadly Col Bizwork died a couple of weeks ago, so it'll be hard to confirm why he was there in 1972. That certainly raised my eyebrows that you both confirmed it was then, and not the late '60s. I know there was a resupply flight to RAF Lyneham around 1973 but this looks very much like he was doing some kind of training on the T.4. Well, if anyone ever learns anymore, I'd be grateful. I'm trying to complete a short book on the Ethiopian Canberra squadron so any recollections of their UK training could be useful.
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Old 28th Aug 2019, 02:28
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Would anyone have any gen on this Chipmunk T.10 such as the unit? I think the serial is WK591, but am not sure, because other photos of 591 show her a '9' on the tail fin. It's possible this was IEAF Captain Bizuwork Yigezu training in 1967.
RAFC Cranwell RAF [9] ? WK591 | Transport Photo Archive
https://www.aviationphotocompany.com...0A24#h749c0a24

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Old 28th Aug 2019, 10:58
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WK591: 15 Central Flying School, RAF Little Rissington 23 June 1961 - 29 September 1966
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Old 28th Aug 2019, 18:31
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Thanks VampireDave, very helpful.
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